Suit filed over COOL regulations

Cattle Market & Farm Reports, Editorials
Dec 3, 2008
Suit filed over COOL regulations

Last month, in what could be the first of several attempts to halt the mandatory Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) program, a Washington state feedlot owner and rancher filed suit in U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Washington. The lawsuit, filed by Easterday Ranches, Inc., claimed that USDA’s COOL program would cause irreparable harm to its operation as a result of increased record keeping costs, increased costs of operation, and the possibility that packer buyers would be deterred from buying Canadian-born cattle from Easterday’s feedlot operation. At the minimum, the suit claims, COOL laws will “reduce the price that slaughter facilities will be willing to pay for such (Canadian-born) cattle.”

According to the court filing, Easterday Ranches claims USDA violated regulations set forth by the U.S. Treasury which would prevent COOL and the laws of the North American Free Trade Agreement. As a result, the ranchers claimed that USDA violated federal rule-making procedures and asked that the court grant a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction to prevent USDA from implementing COOL.

However, the court denied both requests, stating that Easterday did not show a “likelihood of success on the merits” of its case and denied the request for a temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction.

“Even if the rules are in conflict, that conflict was created by Congressional action, not agency action. Congress has directly spoken to the precise question at issue, and both this Court and Defendants must give effect to the unambiguously expressed intent of Congress,” wrote federal judge Robert Whaley, who authored the opinion in the case. “Therefore, the Court finds that Plaintiff has not shown a likelihood (let alone a strong likelihood) of success on the merits,” of the case. — John Robinson, WLJ Editor